Pro Tips: 5 Ways to Improve Your Winter Fishing Experience

Fishing during a snowstorm requires some serious dedication.
All photos by Brian Slusser

Winter fishing often presents the most difficult and uncomfortable conditions of the year, leading many anglers to put away their tackle until next spring. Others just can’t wait that long in between fishing trips, however, so they have no choice but to brave the outdoors during the coldest and darkest months in search of the next trout fix. If you happen to be one of those hearty few, then these 5 tips–suggested by fishing guide and ski patroller Brian Slusser of Four Seasons Fly Fishing in Truckee, California–should help you catch more trout this winter.

1. Be Ready to Walk

If you’re in an area that gets a lot of snow, be prepared for limited parking and the possibility of needing snowshoes or skis to reach the water. If you choose to walk through the snow, the new rubber-soled wading boots are awesome because the snow doesn’t stick to them nearly as badly as it does to the old felt soles. Whichever you choose, be sure not to lace your boots up too tightly. Looser is warmer than super tight.

2. Go During the Heat of the Day

The water temps are already cold during winter, and so are the fish. A one- or two-degree rise in water temp can turn the fish on. I also look for high-pressure periods when it’s 50 degrees during the day, as opposed to cloudy and 20-degree days. Ski in the morning, fish in the afternoon.

Look for fish in deep runs, and use a nymph rig to get down to them.

3. Fish Low and Slow

Like I mentioned above, the water is cold and the fish are too. Nymphing–whether under an indicator or Euro-style–will be the best technique to start with. Streamers can also be a good choice to mix things up and get a couple bites. Keep your presentation low and slow with streamers, as well.

4. Small Hatches, Small Flies

For us, the winter months of December, January, and Febuary produce mostly very small midges and blue-winged olives. There just isn’t that much going on, so the trout are forced to focus on the little stuff. Keep your flies small and subtle, although it doesn’t hurt to try some attractor nymph patterns, as well, every now and then.

Not even snow can stop the blue-winged olive hatches, which tend to draw more attention during winter with less competition around.

5. Watch for Rain

Try fishing after a rain event. If it’s been raining, then not only will the water be a little warmer, but chances are good that it’ll be high and off-color, as well. In other words, it’s the perfect time to try a big streamer or some bigger nymphs.

Winter can be tough, so don’t be afraid to get skunked. This is not a numbers game, especially not during winter. The more you go and try, the more knowledge you will accumulate, and the more success you’ll enjoy. And if not, you can always go skiing.

Brian Slusser is owner and operator of Four Seasons Fly Fishing in Truckee, California.

One thought on “Pro Tips: 5 Ways to Improve Your Winter Fishing Experience”

  1. Snug-fitting surgical gloves under fingerless gloves keep your hands dry and thus a bit warmer with little or no loss of dexterity. Also, with regards to streamers although low and slow is the way to go, you can still put a lot of “triggering” action into a streamer without moving it very far

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